Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fading Finale

This is where it had hit me, my adventure was over. It was Friday morning and I had to make it to Atlanta by Sunday. Today was the day I am to leave this dream, from here on its just hard riding until I get back home. Funny that word home, I had been homeless for nearly 30 days but felt more at home with out one than ever before. The gearing up seemed to go by too quickly and I bid my farewells and saw my host off to work. Swung by a local breakfast place that had an enclosed glass patio. A dragon fly had been stubbornly bashing itself against the glass thinking that it was for sure going to fly out to the street beyond the clear wall. On my way out I caught it and set it on the side of the glass it was trying so desperately to reach. Moab was good to me and as a final pleasantry she kept all the traffic off the roads and allowed me to open up the throttle on Cindy and tear up hwy 128. The recommended speed was 35 on the turns and I never slowed down to less than 55. I could hear my kickstand grind on the pavement as I leaned way over to make the turns. The lefts, rights, ups, and downs were her way of letting me know that it’s a blast even on the way out.

The towering walls eventually kneeled to the flats of the desert and within an hour I was on flat straight road again with the canyons hidden below the horizon and with mountains at the opposite side. Just as I made it out onto the flats I noticed a piece of tire tread on the road. I though to myself at first it was an animal and as I got closer realized it was just rubber. Right then and there a rabbit, not but a few months old ran out from the right side of the road. My first casualty of the trip. I saw him coming and only had enough time to cringe at the though of what was about to happen to that poor creature. He leaped just before crossing paths with Cindy and connected with the heel of my heavy boot and peg. I turned and saw him tumble over and stop, lying motionless in the road. I knew turning back was useless, it was a goner. I was so mad at at it. Mad that it made a bad judgment call and thought it could beat me across the road and now lay dead on the blistering pavement. The sadness of leaving was relieved by the amazing road out, only to be brought back by the passing of the rabbit. I continued onto the flats with a heavy heart.

As I got closer to the mountains the river turned more and more clear. The rise in elevation brought with it more vegetation. The rock formations and mountains were far more rugged and jagged than the smooth red rock of Moab on the ride up the West side of the Rockies. The road hugged the Colorado River that by this time was only about 30’ across and all white water. The road was all nearly a raised up on a bridge like platform due to the uneven surface of the mountain terrain. The oncoming traffic was above me 20’ feet higher on the slopes.

The ruggedness subsided as I made it to the peak of the overpass and the mountains took a different shape. It was like a fairytale, the dark pines grew in bunches that sprouted from light green rolling pastures of grass. Here and there you would see patches of aspens and even higher the trees gave way to just the grassy slopes that led to still snow covered peaks. It was cold but I did not want to stop to gear up. After riding in the desert for such a long time I forced myself to enjoy the Goosebumps and the shaking. Sections of the road would disappear into a mountainside tunnels and I would reappear to new peaks. I passed several well-known ski villages and the summer months were still good to them. The narrow streets were packed with pedestrians and bikers. The restaurants and breweries had their parking lots filled with cars. I could not resist and stopped by one of the to refill an emptying stomach.

As I rode I critiqued the roads of the US. Ever since west Montana to Portland, down the west coast, and all the way to Denver I had been riding with my jaw dropped at awe of all the beauty. There are so many places that I rode by that are worth exploring that I will get back to in the not to distant future. Everything east of that is just not the same. I am all about the mountains and the rivers.

After Denver it was back to the fields. Again the rain clouds harassed me, threatening to make my ride back less happy than it had already been. I stopped by a gas station to fill up and the speaker had the national anthem paying. I had not realized it was Independence Day. I was quickly reminded when looking up from the pump I could see sporadic displays of fireworks all along the horizon. It seemed that each of the scattered farmhouses pyro communicated with each other as they took turns in launching the colorful displays. I rode a bit longer and stopped at a rest area to set up my hammock and get a few hours of sleep. I had rode 780 miles and had almost 1200 to go. With an evil grin on my face I dared myself to do all 1200 the next day.

5 am came slowly as I tossed and turned and woke up several times. I was eager to stop sleeping and continue riding. My day started on the border of Kansas and Colorado and my mind was set on making it to Atlanta. The ride was uneventful until I got to St. Louis where I joined up with several bikers and rode alongside them for a hundred miles or so. The mind seems to perk up a bit when joining up with other bikers. We parted ways and I was again alone on the road with just my thoughts to keep me company. The sun began to set as I pulled into Tennessee. Ah Tennessee, familiar ground, my work territory. It was the home stretch I could feel it. I watched the sun go down through my side view mirrors. I wanted to stick my arms out and dig my feet into the pavement to stop or at least slow myself down from the inevitable end that was coming to this trip. I wished I could lasso the sun and pull it back up high in the sky prolonging the life of the dying day. It was no use, the sun kept falling until it buried itself deep in the horizon and the miles kept coming as Cindy rushed me along the interstate. This was the first time I had ever felt disappointed at a sunset. My trip had been nearly over.

I stopped at a gas station just south of Clarksville TN and just as I was about to pull up a squad car pulled up in front of me blocking my path. I had my mask, helmet and earbuds on with music blaring. I could see the officer shout something from the open passenger window and motioned him to wait a second, as I needed to take off all of my head contraptions in order to hear him. I was hoping this would not be any trouble for me so close to home. “Where you headed?” I finally heard him holler at me from within the patrol car. I gave him a quick description of what I was doing and when I finished authoritatively exited the vehicle and started to make his way towards me. His walk was very deliberate and focused, I got a little worried and confused as I did not know what I had done wrong. He got next to me and pulled out his hand. “I just want to shake your hand man!” He says with a half chuckle. He was a Harley comrade and wanted to commend my undertaking with a handshake and exchange of information. I breathed a sigh of relief and we chatted for a while. The chat flipped a switch back to Human in me as I had been riding almost thoughtless and emotionless like a zombie for the entire day.

Up and over the overpass, Chattanooga came and went, and I pulled into Atlanta. It was 1:30 am and I pulled up to Roman’s and Elly’s place, this was where the entire trip started. I DID IT. I had connected the 2 ends of the path of travel and completed the circle. Cindy put up with me and carried me through all 9200 miles, 1170 of which I had rode that last day. I was beat and could not wait to fall asleep. As I lay there it was difficult to come to grip with what I had just done. I could not understand how it was possible, but it was done. I had a mess of conclusions floating around in my head. What did I learn? Thought of all the people I encountered on this journey. Thought of what the next one would look like and when it would be. My mind would not stop racing with it assessment of this experience. It did not turn off that night, it just kept going and I eventually stopped paying attention to the storm in my mind and checked out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Still Asleep Still Dreaming

I don’t know what it was, maybe it was that I was able to fit in a weeks worth of activities into the day the day before, but today I just took it easy. I had been riding hard and off on adventures left and right and work was starting to catch up to me. I went to a café to have some breakfast and catch up with some work emails, and calls. My host needed to work this day so I took advantage to use it to catch up.

I could not help but treat my host Tiara with at least a nice dinner later that night for all the amazing things we had done so far. We went for a sun set dinner at Sunset Grill. The restaurant is situated on a cliff overlooking the town down in the valley and has a perfect view of the setting sun that disappears passed the canyon walls. The grill used to be the home of Charlie Steen. Steen was a geologist prospector who went from rags to riches after finding Uranium in Moab. There are very many interesting reads on him and are worth the time to look into. After dinner my iron horse Cindy took us around town on a short ride. I love evening/night rides, the temperatures are cooler, and the mood is more relaxed. People had still been on the streets walking the sidewalks and visiting open shops and looking through the windows of the closed ones putting it on the to-do list for tomorrow.

 The next day it was back at it full force with a day filled with activities, sun, and sweat. The first one on the list was bouldering at Big Bend. The 3 of us Musketeers packed light, as bouldering requires almost no gear at all, and after some breakfast were climbing in no time. We drove up along the Colorado River, once again surrounded by the towering red canyon walls. There was a section of canyon that had some of the walls break off in large boulders and rolled down to the edge of the road. The approach is short and there are 71 official routes ranging from V1-V12 ratings. Bouldering is such an intense exercise and perfect in climbing strength training and technique improvement. You will often times find yourself hanging horizontally holding all of your weight with just your finger tips and toes. It is definitely a full body workout and an extremely fun one at that. If you haven’t yet tried it you must! We climbed for a few hours and before we new it the sun was directly above us beating down hot and heavy on us. After a bunch of routes, blisters, scrapes, and scratches we called it a day and headed back towards the opposite side of town.

We had worked up quite the sweat and a dip in the lake was lifesaver. Yes a lake, in the middle of the desert, with a really cool waterfall just upstream from it. Being that we were in a mini monster truck we rode over to the opposite side of the lake away from the tourists and pulled in backwards leaving the tailgate hanging over the turquoise water. It was just what the doctor ordered, and the initial jump in was cool but oh so pleasant. We would take dips, come out for some sun and dry out in a moments notice in the dry desert air. This would repeat about 5-6 times until we felt like our core temperatures had returned back to normal.

Feeling completely refreshed we headed back towards the entrance to the lake and rode uphill a ways to a trail that would lead to the waterfall. A short hike through the desert brush, sand, and boulders and the small stream gave way to a waterfall that dropped about 30’ into a small pool. I was eager to climb in and get beneath the falls. Gravity worked its magic and when standing beneath the falls the falling water nearly forced you to your knees. The sound of water smashing up against your skull is indescribable and against the rest of your body feels like a deep tissue massage. We continued upstream to the origin of the water. There had been a pipe that appeared from the rock that was spewing out clean water from the mountain several miles away. The water comes from melting snow and the occasional cloud that dumps water on the mountain before reaching Moab. The hike had us rise in elevation and again the valley between the two canyon walls lay before us. “What a huge amazing playground” I thought to myself as I looked out at my surroundings before heading back to the truck.

I had been smiling throughout the whole trip, but the moment I started to pull into Moab I had goose bumps and a smile that had permanently placed itself on my face. I made the decision to make this a regular visit location of mine; in fact after Oregon this was now my favorite place. That night I contemplated whether or not to leave the next day. To comfortably make it back to Atlanta I would have needed to leave. Before falling asleep I chose to sacrifice comfort for one more day in my Dream called Moab and with that I closed my eyes looking forward to the next day rather than dreading it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

One for the record books

I awoke an hour before the alarm clock rang out and did not waste anytime thinking wether to start the day or not. We ran off to a park, or what was left of it anyways, that had several overgrown slack line stations. The park had been barely used and the lines themselves removed but the mounting posts remained. After several failed tries to set up the slack line Tiara finally got it and demonstrated. As I watched her I remembered pictures of her healing knees after a double knee surgery she had not too long ago. I was thoroughly impressed. The technique in walking the slack line put a lot of stress on the knees and she was making it look so easy. I was wrong in thinking that I was going to do it as effortlessly as she. The moment both feet left the ground and transferred weight to the slack line I knew I was in for a challenge. Just getting the balance to stand still was an effort! All of my lower body and core was being used to try to keep my balance. It was a killer workout. I was finally able to stand in one place, and within a few tries Tiara made it across the almost 20’ span. I made it to 3 steps and called it a day, reminding myself to try to add this to my workout routine to improve balance. That would be something else I you could throw a roundhouse standing up on that 1” wide slack line. Would make for some killer kicks when you find yourself back on the ground.

The little workout built up a bit of an appetite and we had a small breakfast before going to the main event of the day. I made sure not to stuff myself for my next adventure. Back out of town we rode passed the river and canyon walls to the flats that surrounded Moab on the outskirts. Back the way that I came into town passing the red walls that once more brought goose bumps to the back of my neck and arms. We were heading back to the airport that I had passed up just the day before. I could not pass up the opportunity to skydive for the first time in a beautiful place like this. I have no fear of heights and very little fear for anything to begin with and have always wanted to skydive ever since being a kid. My heart was racing not at the fact that I was about fall from 10,000 ft but at the fact that I was going to finally scratch this adventure off the list. I signed all the necessary paperwork and watched the instructional video and could not wait to be airborne. Looking around at my surroundings I couldn’t help but compare it to the Movie “Point Break”. There was another person that was jumping with me, a smaller older woman who mention that her grandkids were going to go crazy after seeing that she had done this. Her excitement was infectious. I met my tandem skydiver Kevin and asked that he try to scare the shit out of me while up there. “Do something that would get you fired!” I told him as we walked back from watching the previous group land. There was another gentleman walking back with us. “Well I am glad I was here for that conversation, because I am his boss!” Opps, I had no idea. Kevin still gave me a wink and a nod agreeing to take my advice regardless of his supervisors reaction.

The plane landed shortly after the previous skydivers did and rolled down the runway turning around between the hangars to position itself for the next take off. The pilot killed the engines as we took a few pictures. “I have just barely enough fuel for this next jump! Should we fill up?” “Naw… we should be good” Kevin hollered back at the pilot. If he was telling the truth I got even more excited. What would be more exciting than to have to jump out of an airplane not because you have made it to the appropriate altitude, but because the plane had run out of fuel and a deadly crash was imminent? As I approached the aircraft I brushed my hand along the edge of the wing. The aluminum was soiled with rivets and was far from smooth. “At least there are no bullet holes in her.” I thought to myself. It was basically a tin can with wings, wheels, and an engine. Its cargo was the meaty inside of the plane comprised of 4 jumpers and the pilot. The inside of the plane did not look any better than the outside and I loved it. The closer you can bring me to death the more alive I will feel. We huddled in and the engines started with a sputter. The vibration of the engine transferred to every part of the feather light body of the airplane. Made one turn to the runway and were off the ground in no time.

Every little patch of rising air or gust wind felt like it had more control over the vessel than the pilot himself. It would jerk and wobble, rise and fall no matter how steady the captain held the course. The higher up we got the less dimensional the environment became. The flats, canyon walls, arches, and everything else that makes up Moab very quickly became a flat 2 dimensional portrait. The tanned hide color of the ground and soft blue of the sky came to meet at he horizon complimented each other very. The two jumpers ganged up on the older woman and cracked jokes, all of which only added to the excitement and jolliness of the atmosphere. “Scoot back and sit on his lap and wiggle downwards so he can strap you in tighter!” She did so without thinking, catching the other jumper by surprise. He was not expecting her get up on him and start grinding into his lap like that as he did not hear the command. We all busted out laughing, as she finally understood what was happening and gave Kevin a playful slap and joined in with the laughing. I was looking out the window and suddenly there was a rush of cold air. I had been taken away by the view of the desert and did not notice how we had already made it to jump height. The air was cold and sobering, and before I knew it the lady and 1st jumper were hanging out of the airplane. They said a few last things into the camera and with two rocks ejected themselves from the tin can. YES! I was so excited for her more than for myself. I had no fear and the feeling was less exciting for me than it was for her. I envied what she felt now falling and just prior looking down just before they broke contact with the plane. We made our way to the door and I wiggled my legs out onto the 10”x10” aluminum platform. We had been so high up that there was no fear of falling. I had done bridge and cliff jumps that where far more frightening than this. There was a sense of security knowing that you had so much time on the way down to react. We also hooted and hollered our last bit of anticipated excitement into the camera, rock twice, and were off.

As soon as I felt the platform disappear from under me I arched back as hard as I could, just like the instructor advised. We would back flip off of the plane and I did everything I could to flip over quickly to see the plane begin to distance itself from us. I wanted a point of reference so I could gauge how quickly we had been falling. The view of the red and white plane was short-lived, and we continued to roll into the free fall position. It was a half of a second that has burned itself into my memory for the rest of my life. By the time we made it to our bellies we had been nearly at terminal velocity. The wind caught my cheeks and made them flap uncontrollably. I smiled because of it and the smile tightened my cheeks stopping the flapping. Kevin motioned for me to go into a dive position and we straightened our bodies, tucked our arms back and shot through the sky like a missile. We picked up speed and ended up getting ahead of our other jumpers. Just as I began to wish the fall would last forever I felt the tug of the chute opening and the noise of the rushing air stopped and it was silent as the chute stopped us from free-fall. The silence was amazing, just a second ago you couldn’t hear your own voice if you screamed as loud as you could and now everything was silent except for a faint flapping of the chute somewhere above us. The silence made you focus on just your sight and the view was breathtaking. The approaching ground began to show its many colors and textures. We pulled on the reigns this way and that making us swing up and over our chute. With every pull the parachute would catapult us up into the sky again positioning our bodies parallel to the horizon. After a few twists and turns we began our approaching to the landing zone. I caught our shadow on the ground directly below several hundred feet before landing. We came in fast and Kevin pulled up on both reigns bringing us to a near stop. The landing was perfectly executed and the transition from air to ground was flawless. He detached me from his harness and I stood there for a second looking up to where I had just fallen. 10,000 feet up in a tin can and 10,000 down with gravity, it was exhilarating and I promised myself to do it again and again.

I made it back to the hangar and gave a big hug to my jumping comrade. The little woman seemed to disappear in my arms. I hugged my host and was so high on life I nearly walked off with my harness still on. The ride back to town had me smiling from ear to ear, I would even chuckle to myself with the thought of what I have already accomplished and what was still left to do on this trip. It had hit me that this trip was the most amazing thing I have done in my life and I couldn’t wait to raise the bar higher on the next one.

After grabbing some lunch we hiked up a creek to get to a local waterfall. The trial fallowed the creek and was full of green vegetation. We had to cross the creek at several spots and one of them had rocks with Native American petroglyphs. In the past the Natives would be visiting this place to go for a swim and a settlement wasn’t far fro the water no doubt. No satellites on the night sky, no contrails during the day, just man and nature living peacefully side by side. We made it to the falls and it felt like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Crystal clear water flowed from the red rock ledge tumbling over into a cool pool below. The pool was nearly completely surrounded by rock walls except for where the water from the creek continued to flow downstream. I did not waste any time getting completely submerged in the cool desert pool. The water rejuvenated my body from the dry air and blistering sun. I could have stayed there all day but knew that 24 hours does not last forever and I had so much more yet to do. After several dips and one jump off of the rock ledge into the pool we continued upstream further into the canyon. The walls closed in on us the further up we went and you could make out the start of several rock arches beginning to be formed by the elements. Hiked to a more secluded spot where I finally let my white Russian ass see some sun. Nude sun bathing in the middle of a picturesque canyon in the middle of the desert with a waterfall oasis around the corner, yes it was making for an amazing Moab experience.

Hiked back down stopping to dip in the creek to cool off and went to go pick up Amir, one of the guys I met the night before. We had picked up some climbing gear and drove outside of town about 25 miles or so to Looking Glass rock. From the face of it just looked like a glob of rock that was in the middle of a flat desert area. We geared up and it was an easy climb up to the top. Once there we went through a small keyhole, about 4’x6’ and rappelled down about 120’ feet or so the opposite side of the rock. Before we did Tiara checked and double-checked all the ropes, harnesses, and gear. I am so used to winging it but I was glad that I was being kept in check by the seasoned climbers, I was very confident in the level of safety. Although on second thought safety makes for a little less adrenaline. It was still amazing to rappel for the first time outdoors and have it be such a high drop.

We all made it to the ground and found ourselves in a large natural stone amphitheater and stage. The walls rose high up alongside us and eventually curved over and capped us in with a solid rock ceiling. At the opposite end of the rock there was a 60’x60’ foot hole that looked out into the desert. We hiked up the loose sand and rock slope making sure to avoid any rattlesnakes, as they were common in this area. There was a cliff edge along the walls of the theatre that we climbed up to. The rope that we used to rappel was looped over twice and we would use it as a rope swing. We each took turns jumping off the cliff edge, there is a tiny bit of free-fall before the rope tightens and takes your weight and you go into the pendulum motion of the swing. As I jumped I could hear the wind in my ears grow louder to the lowest part of the swing and grow quite until going silent right before I would turn to swing back in the direction I jumped from. It was awesome to see this massive rock formation accelerate to and from me as I swung back and forth. We each took turns jumping and packed up in a hurry as we were trying to get to the next adventure before the sun went down.

Rode back into town and had a quick dinner and headed off to Hell’s Revenge for a sunset off-road ride. We took a 2004 Toyota Tacoma up there that had several modifications. As soon as we deflated the tires we were on the trails. This was my hosts day job and she could drive through this treacherous maze of rock, cliff and canyons with her eyes closed, and backwards (which she did to scare me). The truck would bounce from side to side and lean up where you couldn’t see nothing but sky and turn right back down again to dive straight into rock. The trails had been heavily traveled and tire tracks traced the contours of the uneven rock formations all around, as it is one of the most popular off-roading locations in the nation. We stayed on the trails until the sun went down. The amount of colors that Moab cycles through on a daily basis is mind-boggling. Every part of the day will have the sun hitting the rocks at different angles and intensity making for an amazing display. This is especially the case at sunset. The moon had already made its way out as though rushing the sun on its way passed the horizon. Just after the sun went down we stopped at a flat stone where there were dozens of fossilized dinosaur tracks. This place used to be a wet riverbed or coastline and these creatures roamed the once lush environment. I reminisced to a day where I dreamed of being a paleontologist. That giant stood there once and would tower over me, and now all that was left was a print that I was tracing with my hand.

Riding back to the house I could not help but smile my most authentic of smiles. I did it! This day was going down into the record books in my life. I felt like a kid, because I did things that I dreamed of when I was a kid. I have learned in life that I, and others that I have spoken to about this topic, am most happy when I tap into that inner kid of mine and live out how I imagined life would be when I grew up. We get bogged down with the many things that come with being a responsible adult, shutting out that part of us that just wants to get out there and have a blast without a care in the world. I was happy, and I consciously mad a decision to live a life that allows that kid in me to come out more often and breath, look around with mischievous eyes, and run off with only my imagination to guide me.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Moab; Love at First Sight

I ended up staying up a bit later than expected and slept passed my first alarm and woke up at the second one at 5:30 am. Tried to sneak out unnoticed but Claire (the Dane) growled up a storm that woke Leah up and she came down to see me off. It had already begun to light up outside and I was concerned that I was going to get fried on the road to Moab. The Sun rose directly ahead of me, and the temperature with it. I was again surrounded by the beautiful dessert with an occasional canyon that would curve the otherwise straight roads. The first of which was Virgin River Canyon. The massive bare rocks rose up from the dessert and nearly swallowed up the interstate. As I was riding through, the sun hit the walls of the canyon just right and the walls reflected the light in a pure gold color. It reminded me of a 1969 Western film Mackenna’s Gold. Greedy bandits had kidnapped an old Indian and forced him to lead them to a legendary canyon whose walls were lined with gold. Upon arriving to the canyon it was merely the light of the setting sun hitting the walls of the canyon. The bandits were furious but to the Natives the sight of the setting sun against the canyon walls was more precious than gold.

Several other canyons came up and the largest of which was probably Devil’s Canyon just before hitting Moab. I was eager to get to Moab but still pulled off into the viewpoint to snap a picture. As I was mounting back up a beautiful black horse caught my attention and I could not help but pet the amazing creature. I snapped a quick picture to show a friend who breeds and rides horses.

The turn off to Moab could not come soon enough. I messaged my host Tiara ahead of time to let her know of my arrival and ask where I could find a body of water. There was the Colorado River just before town that I was hurrying to get to. The sun had baked me as I chose to ride through the hours that it beat most direct. The landscape had still been fairly flat and I passed by an airport. “Skydive Moab” a sign read out front and I decided instantly that it would become part of my itinerary in the next few days. Just after the airport the road slanted downwards ever so slightly and as I dropped in elevation the red canyon walls rose up alongside me. My ear buds blared soundtracks from the Last of the Mohicans and Dances With the Wolves. The combination of the music and what lay before me gave birth to goose bumps that covered my entire body. The feeling was magnificent.  The bottom ¾ of the walls consisted of scattered rocks and boulders and the last ¼, which was about 150-200 feet, was a solid rock wall. I could not believe how gorgeous it was and with every mile it got better. The walls of the canyon narrowed the closer I got into to town until they were wide enough to encase just the road and the river. Agh the river, I pulled over and asked several young girls that were just leaving from a swim where I could jump in. They pointed at the opposite shore informing me of a rock just at the other side of the bridge. Before they waived goodbye they asked if I had any cigarettes. “I don’t smoke!” I hollered at them, thinking that even if I did I wouldn’t give you any, they had clearly all been under 18.

I parked Cindy on a spot that looked like a base to an old bridge. The base had a straight drop to the water about 10’ below and made for a perfect place to jump in. I made sure my wallet and phone were not in my pockets and didn’t care to undress for the leap. Jump, air, then water with a splash. It felt so refreshing after riding in the mid-day sun. My cloths allowed for the fast moving current to pull me harder than it would have if I undressed and I had to hurry back to the shore. In the several seconds after the jump I was downstream about 40 feet or so, it was fast and murky. I made a note to myself to Google how many people had drowned in that part of the river. The wet cloths kept me cool for a while longer as I mounted back up and rode to the other side of the river to Lions Park to the fresh water well to wash up. The climb out of the riverbank had thick soft sand and when trying to raise one leg the other would sink in to the knee from the weight. This had caked my jeans in a layer of sand and river silt and I was glad that there was fresh running water. I washed all of my cloths and thought of changing into clean ones but ended up washing the clothes once more and putting it on wet. My system of air-conditioning was flawless. I was unaffected by the blistering sun.

Downtown Moab was only about a mile away and I pulled up to a Café to catch up on some work, as my hostess would only be available in a few hours. I had been neglecting my writing and work with all the miles that I was trying to travel so the time spent there was extremely productive. Before I knew it the time was 6:20 and I was to meet up with Tiara at 6:30 for a friends birthday party just one block away. The ride was quick and the streets were lined with storefronts that tourists were peaking through. A spa, art gallery, restaurants, coffee shops, and tour companies were among the continuous string of establishments. I parked and walked up to the outdoor patio of Eddy McStiff’s. I told the hostess I was waiting for someone and she asked if I needed any water, I declined. I sat for a minute or two and the hostess returned with a glass of water and a smile. “You look like you need it”, she said as she set the glass down. I guess my face had “I just rode 470 miles through the dessert” written on it. I wasn’t going to fool anyone. The condensation from the side of the glass collected on my fingertips as I tilted it back and the ice rolled down to stop at my face. The hostess looked at me with an “I told you so” look on her face. Within a few minutes Tiara pulled up and I examined carefully, as this was the first time I had met her, prior to this it was a few FB messages back an forth. When I was sure it was she I caught up and greeted her just before she went through the entrance door.

The birthday girl was a South African friend of hers, Zinzi, who was turning 30. Culturally 30 is a big deal for South Africans, like a golden birthday if you will. When she finally arrived she was glowing with energy and happiness. I couldn’t help myself and joined up in the celebrations as if I was one of their own. All of the guests were bronzed from being in the sun all the time. A majority of them worked outdoors doing something physical, the rest indoors but all tied into the booming tourist industry that is present during the spring, summer, and fall months. The only one was a Persian gentleman by the name of Amir, who was an engineer at a mine just outside of town. But he did not stand out and was as happy and energetic as the rest. I shared with everyone who I was and what I was doing and Zinzi’s eyes lit up at the mention of the motorcycle… I mean Cindy, sorry Cindy. I gladly offered her a celebratory ride around town; it was the least contribution I could make to her special day. As the party died down we mounted up and buzzed up to the Colorado River and back. The whole way I could feel smile warming the back of my head. I again was glad I could share a little piece of what I had been experiencing these last few weeks from atop my iron horse. I dropped her off with some hugs and Birthday wishes and Tiara offered to head upriver to a place where there were rapids and a perfect view of the night sky for some stargazing.

I unloaded the saddle bags and we only took the necessities, it felt good lightening up Cindy’s load. The ride up was dark and I had to ride slower than I would have liked to on the windy road that closely hugged the river on one side and the canyon walls on the other. It was a new road for me and the curves would hide the upcoming road in the darkness. The light from my headlight could not bend around the corner and I was not going to push Cindy with Tiara riding with me. The drops in the road would dip us into cooler temperatures and the climbs would warm us back up again. This stretch of road was a bikers dream, and I couldn’t wait to let Cindy loose on it in the bright of day.

I put myself in the shoes of the campers whose fires lined the river. The quiet night with only the sound of the river and crackling fire would all of the sudden be disrupted by a nightrider. It would first be a distant echo that bounced along the canyon walls ahead of the source, and eventually the gargle of the pipes would rise in pitch. The twisting and turning road dictating the rise and fall of RPM’s as the iron horseman navigated his way through the canyon. The pitch would climax as he accelerated on the straightaway beside our campsite and drop tones as he began to distance himself from us.

We pulled up to the parking spot to the rapids and as soon as I shut the noisy engine off the deafening silence took its place. It was unreal and when I looked up at the blanket of stars above me my jaw dropped. Tiara said it was going to get even better as the sun had just set and complete darkness had not set in yet. We began to hike to the edge of the river where the rapids were and I asked Tiara to shut off the flashlight. I wanted to walk to the river with just the stars and the sliver of a moon shining on the ground before us. It was easy enough until we got to the rocks, they lost their shape in the darkness and where you thought them to be flat they were pitched and visa versa. We managed to make it to the rivers edge found a piece of driftwood to sit on. The water was turning just several feet away from us and I tried picturing the white water with no luck. I was reminded of a Russian saying that went, “There are three things that a person can never get tired of watching, a fire, water (like waves or the constant flow of a river), and another person working. The little twist at the end got me a chuckle from Tiara. I am always weary of telling Russian anecdotes in an English version, as some of the meaning is sometimes lost through translation.

We managed to make our way back with no light and picked out a spot to lay the blanket down. The spot was on the sloped bank of the river with smaller rocks that made it possible to lay comfortably on our backs exposing to the show that was directly above us. The only thing I could muster up was “Oh my GOD” as my head hit the slope and eyes made contact with the sky. Titling my head further back I could see the Milky Way ribbon itself across the sky further behind us. Throughout the night it kept closer and closer into our field of view and eventually we did not have to tilt our heads to see it. I was amazed at the amount of satellites buzzing this way and that across the sky. By the end of the night I had counted 17 of them and they had never traveled the same path. We also got lucky and saw about 7 shooting stars. Some were faint and brief while others lit up the sky bright and shot clear across the entire sky above us.

We spent several hours looking up into nothing and at the same time everything putting our size into perspective. We were something so small, part of something so big and wondrous. The little problems I though I had diminished into a fraction of a fraction of a fraction and I could not help but smile for being part of this wonderful universe.

The ride back was considerably cooler than coming in and my T-shirt could care less about keeping any heat inside of itself. I would shiver when the low spots would dip the temperature and tell myself to man up until the warm ones would re-appear on the climbs and once out of the canyon. What a perfect introduction to this magical place. Sometimes I wish I knew how to squeal, I would have right then and there out of excitement. When we got back we roughly planned out the next days activities. First we were going to… no no no, I wont spoil it for you. Just keep reading and you will know soon enough the adventures of tomorrow.